Soil and Microbial EcologySoil ecology of urban environments

In progress


How does urbanization affect soil organisms and what is the effect of these organisms on plant growth and health in urban areas?

Project Summary

Urbanization has a substantial impact on natural ecosystems where only certain plant or animal species can thrive in areas that have high amounts of development and chemical pollution from human activities. Whether urbanization has this same effect on organisms belowground is currently unknown. But belowground organisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi that form beneficial relationships with plants and assist plants in acquiring nutrients, are necessary for proper plant growth and survival. The absence or reductions in abundance of mycorrhizal fungi and other organisms could have negative effects on plants in urban settings and influence the success of urban forestry, agricultural and efforts at restoring nature in developed landscapes. Scientists at HF&G are exploring this question with our collaborators at Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University. Investigations include effects of nanoparticles on soil organisms associated with common crop species, effects of development on vernal pools, and how soil fungi affect tree restoration in urban parks. Studies examining differences in soil organisms found on vacant urban lots and in restored urban park land are currently ongoing.


soil amendment, soil chemistry, mycorrhizae, soil fungi, urban ecology, soil


Select Publications

  • Lance AC, DJ Burke, CE Hausman, and JH Burns. 2020. High throughput sequencing provides insight into manipulated soil fungal community structure and diversity during temperate forest restoration. Restoration Ecology 28: S365-S372. DOI: 10.1111/rec.13120
  • Lance AC, SR Carrino-Kyker, DJ Burke, and JH Burns. 2020. Individual plant-soil feedback effects influence tree growth and rhizosphere fungal communities in a temperate forest restoration experiment. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7: 500. DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00500
  • Lance AC, DJ Burke, CE Hausman, and JH Burns. 2019. Microbial inoculation and source provenance influence microbial community structure and nutrient dynamics in two temperate tree species. Restoration Ecology 25: 1084-1093. DOI: 10.1111/rec.12962
  • Burke DJ, N Pietrasiak, SF Situ, EC Abenojar, M Porche, P Kraj, Y Lakliang, and ACS Samia. 2015. Iron oxide and titanium oxide nanoparticle effects on plant performance and root associated microbes. International Journal of Molecular Science 16: 23630-23650. DOI: 10.3390/ijms161023630
  • Burke DJ, S Zhu, MP Pablico-Lansigan, CR Hewins, and ACS Samia. 2014. Titanium oxide nanoparticle effects on soil microbial communities and plant performance. Biology and Fertility of Soils 50: 1169-1173. DOI: 10.1007/s00374-014-0938-3
  • Endreny TA, DJ Burke, KP Burchhardt, MW Fabian, and AM Kretzer. 2012. Soil column study of bacteria community response to salt enriched artificial stormwater. Journal of Environmental Quality 41: 1951-1959. DOI: 10.2134/jeq2012.0082
  • Carrino-Kyker SR, AK Swanson, and DJ Burke. 2011. Changes in eukaryotic microbial communities of vernal pools along an urban–rural land use gradient. Aquatic Microbial Ecology: 62: 13-24. DOI: 10.3354/ame01432
  • Temperate Tree Response to Microbial Inoculation During Restoration: Soil and Leaf Nutrient Status (Rachel Reeb , Andrew Lance, Sarah Kyker, David J. Burke, Jean Burns, Constance Hausman
  • Does urbanization affect the life under our feet? Examining the factors affecting fungal communities on vacant lots in Cleveland Ohio (Anne M. Kinkopf, Sarah R. Carrino-Kyker, David J. Burke, Emily SJ Rauschert)

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